All The Wrong Places, by Ann Gallagher
Series: Bluewater Bay (Stand-Alone)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 13, 2016
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.
Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.
Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.
Friends to Lovers
I’m a huge fan of the friends to lovers trope. I don’t know if other people would call this “friends to lovers”, as there is no sex, but it really felt that way to me. The word “lover” can take form in many ways. In this case, the form is two guys who are asexual… possibly. Maybe. See, it’s complicated, at least for Brennan. He’s struggling with why ex-girlfriends are unsatisfied in the bedroom, so he decides to hit up Blue Water Bay’s local sex shop. I mean, who else is the guy supposed to ask?
Seriously though, when Brennan meets Zafir, the relationship between them, the communication they have, the discussions they have on sexuality, they all felt pretty authentic. Brennan is confused, he’s troubled, and he’s just trying to figure out why he’s had such back luck with women. Brennan is looking for that someone who not only can be his friend, but his lover, partner, and forever person. When he wanders in and meets Zafir at the local sex shop, he meets someone who not only really listens to him, but genuinely wants to help him and offers good advice. Advice he takes to heart. The drive Brennan has to figure things out is admirable. He’s such a likable character already, but his ambition is a really attractive thing. He’s online, in books, having multiple discussions with Zafir, and really taking a look at himself. I truly loved that about him.
Then we have Zafir who’s mostly a very secure person. He’s got a son whom he adores, works hard to provide for, and sacrifices everything for in order to give him the best life he can. In doing so, some of those sacrifices and cautious actions take him away from close relationships with anyone. Other than a small number of friends, and a sister and niece who love him, he’s kind of cut himself off. Protecting his son is important, so venturing into deep relationships with anyone can be scary. One broken heart is hard enough. Two could be horrible. I loved the respect he has for himself and his child. That protective instinct that guards them both from heartache.
During the story, Brennan tries to figure out how to, or if he even should, place himself in a category. I appreciated the struggle he went through. He has just enough self-awareness to know that he needs to figure out what’s going on in his life. Through this process, I felt that Gallagher did a great job in explaining all the labels that are out there, but doing it in a way that didn’t feel like an education, even though it was educational. I’d expected Brennan to struggle a bit more with his sexuality; still, the decision was not easy for him. While at times I wished to feel more love between them than the friendship, it’s that friendship that ultimately makes their relationship work.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed this story, for the characters themselves, their personalities, the drive each of them had to be great friends first, make a connection and be good and loving people.
Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.
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I received a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.